2018 NHL Draft Grades Part 3

Jesperi Kotkaniemi 2018 NHL Draft Grades
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Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.

NHL free agent frenzy

The big day has come and gone, and now we look back to see how each team did in the NHL draft.  Look, we know that it is way too soon to evaluate a draft and that the true evaluation will be seen four or five years from now.  However, we don’t want to wait, instead, we follow our yearly tradition and do our draft grades now.

LWOH 2018 NHL Draft Grades Part 3

Note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean best player drafted.  It means the best value. For Example, Rasmus Dahlin was the first player taken in this draft. However, he is not our best value pick for the Sabres. Why? Because anyone can take the best player with the first overall pick, we are looking for value here, what steal did the team get in the draft that went later than we thought he would? If it was merely an exercise in naming the best player drafted, might as well just name the team’s first pick, as that is who their own scouts felt was their best player.

A second note: The links lead back to our scouting reports.

Part 2 is Available Here.

Montreal Canadiens: A-

Picks: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jesse Ylonen, Alexander Romanov, Jacob Olofsson, Cam Hillis, Jordan Harris, Allan McShane, Jack Gorniak, Cole Fonstad, Samuel Houde, Brett Stapley
Value: McShane

The Montreal Canadiens have long had a huge hole up the middle. They addressed it in a big way this year. Kotkaniemi is the best centre in the draft. He is an excellent playmaker who plays a 200-foot game. Ylonen was rated a first-rounder. He is an outstanding skater with a great shot. Romanov might have been a reach at 38. He is also a very good passer, starting the transition game or setting up in the zone on the power play. Romanov has a good shot. He plays physical. Olofsson was another first-round talent. The Swedish centre is another 200-foot player. Hillis is undersized, but plays the game like a wrecking ball and also has skill.

Harris is a strong skating defenceman who is set to attend Northeastern next year. McShane is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He is a smart player, very good at reading the play, anticipating which player will get open, and creating a scoring chance. Gorniak is a strong skater, who creates offence through his speed. Fonstad is an excellent playmaker. He slows plays down and has the patience to wait for plays to develop and excellent vision. He’s off to Wisconsin. Houde also has vision and playmaking ability, but questions remain on his skating. Stapley is a smaller forward, known for his playmaking, and is headed to Denver Univesity in the fall.

Nashville Predators: D-

Picks: Jachym Kondelik, Spencer Stastney, Vladislav Yeryomenko, Milan Kloucek
Value: Yeryomenko

The Predators didn’t pick until the fourth round and only had four picks in total. Kondelik is a big centre who is tough to push off the puck. He has a good shot. Stastney is an undersized puck-moving defender headed to Notre Dame next year. Yeryomenko is a puck moving defender from Belarus. He had a strong year with the Calgary Hitman. Kloucek is an overage Czech goalie who went undrafted over the last two years.

New Jersey Devils: C+

Picks: Ty SmithXavier BernardAkira SchmidYegor SharangovichMitchell Hoelscher, Eetu Pakkila
Value: Smith

Smith is a great pick and exactly what the Devils needed. It was surprising that he fell in their lap as he was expected to be drafted higher. He is a mobile defender with strong passing skill. Bernard is mostly known for his defensive work, but there is some offensive potential in his game as well. He has an exceptionally hard slap shot and one-timer.

Schmid seems like a reach, with other talented goalies still on the board at this point of the draft. Sharangovich is a third-year draft eligible. The Belarusian centre plays a strong game down low and in the cycle. He also has a good wrist shot. Hoelscher has mainly been used in a checking line role for the Ottawa 67s. There are questions about his offensive game. Pakkila is a good skater on the wing. He plays a gritty game, but again the offensive upside is a question. The Devils did very well on their first two picks, but underwhelmed with the rest. Lack of second and third rounders also hurt.

New York Islanders: A+

Picks: Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah DobsonBode WildeRuslan Iskhakov, Jakub SkarekJake Pivonka, Blade Jenkins, Christian Krygier
Value: Dobson, but got great value on Wahlstrom, Wilde and Jenkins too

Lou Lamoriello isn’t messing around. The Islanders had one of the best drafts in the league. Wahlstrom and Dobson were first-round steals. Wahlstrom is amongst the best shooters and pure snipers in this draft. Dobson has the size, along with both the offensive and defensive games to be a real impact defenceman in the NHL. Wilde was a mid-first-round talent who slipped to the second round. There are areas of his game that need refinement but the skill level is huge.

Iskhakov might have been a bit of a reach at 43, but given the rest of the draft, it is forgivable. He has excellent playmaking ability, but size is a concern. Skarek was the top-ranked goalie on the LWOH board. He has been playing in the top men’s league in the Czech Republic and is excelling at that level. Pivonka is a two-way centre who plays a very smart game in both ends of the rink. His best attribute is his stickhandling ability. Jenkins is a power forward who loves to forecheck. He also has a good wrist shot. Krygier is a defensive defenceman set to attend Michigan State.

New York Rangers: B

Picks: Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre MillerNils LundkvistOlof LindbomJakob RagnarssonJoey Keane, Nico GrossLauri Pajuniemi, Simon Kjellberg, Riley Hughes
Value: Gross

Kravtsov is a dynamic forward who set records in the KHL playoffs. It seemed like he took a big leap late in the season. Miller is a very raw prospect. A forward for most of his life, he only began playing defence in 2015-16. There is real skill there, but must be refined. Lundkvist is skilled with the puck. He can skate the puck out of danger as well as lead the rush. He has poise at the point on the power play. Lindbom was a surprising pick at 39. He is very technically sound for a young goalie. Ragnarsson is a very good defensive player. He also makes a strong first pass in transition but needs work on his offensive zone play.

Keane was undrafted last year. He had a big season for the Kitchener Rangers. He is a smooth skater who moves the puck well, and also uses that skating to play a strong defensive game. Gross pairs excellent skating with good hockey smarts, leading to outstanding gap control and positioning. Pajuniemi is another 19-year-old. The winger is a quick skater with good hands. Kjellberg is a big, defensive defenceman. Hughes had a solid season in the Prep-school circuit and is headed to Northeastern.

Ottawa Senators: B-

Picks: Brady Tkachuk, Jacob Bernard-DockerJonny Tychonick, Jonathan Gruden, Angus CrookshankKevin Mandolese, Jakov Novak, Luke Loheit
Value: Gruden

LWOH was lower on Tkachuk than most rankings and is not a fan of taking him fourth overall. Questions about his offensive game linger for that draft position. Bernard-Docker felt like a reach in the first round. He is a strong skater, and this is the basis for a good two-way game. Tychonick is a little undersized but makes up for it with elite skating ability. He is an excellent playmaker from the back end. Gruden might not be the most creative player, and he plays a very north-south style of game. However, it is extremely effective. He never gives up on a play.

Crookshank gives the Senators three picks out of the BCHL. He is a smooth skating centre with excellent passing skills. Mandolese faced a ton of shots for Cape Breton. He has quick legs and very good rebound control for a young goalie. Novak is a 20-year-old who dominated as an overage player in the NAHL. Loheit played Minnesota High School hockey and put up 30 points in 24 games.

Philadelphia Flyers: B-

Picks: Joel Farabee, Jay O’BrienAdam GinningJohn St. IvanyWyatte Wylie, Samuel Ersson, Gavin Hain, Marcus Westfalt
Value: Hain

Farabee is a play-making winger. He is an excellent skater. He also has good hands and stick skills allowing him to control the puck while moving at top speed. O’Brien also marries excellent skating ability with very good stickhandling. He has the skill to get by a defender, cut to the net, and the soft hands to beat the goaltender. Ginning is more known for his defensive game than his offensive one. He has excellent size and uses it to his advantage. St. Ivany has good size and was used in all situations for Sioux Falls.

Wylie is an all-around defender. He does a lot of things well, but no aspect of his game stands out. Ersson is an athletic Swedish goaltender. He can refine his technique though. Hain is a tenacious centre. He is quick to get in on the forecheck and is a real agitator. Westfalt plays a simple game offensively but is strong in his own end of the ice.

Pittsburgh Penguins: C-

Picks: Calen AddisonFilip HallanderJustin AlmeidaLiam Gorman
Value: Addison

With just four picks, the Penguins didn’t make things easy on themselves. However, they got good value on their picks, including a potential first-round talent in Addison. His skating, puck-moving, and good shot make him an intriguing prospect. His offensive game is excellent. Hallander has an excellent array of shots. He plays a simple game in the offensive zone, but it is effective. He is also strong in his end. Almeida is a slick centre who scored a ton of points. He is undersized and needs to bulk up though. Gorman has good size and is headed to Boston University next season.


Check Out Part 4 For the Final 8 Teams.


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